The Christian Century Press Items
What do Melissa Rogers, Matthew and Nancy Sleeth, Jim Wallis and Robert George have in common? I'd say not much, other than being Christians, broadly right to center-left theologically, who have some degree of political influence in one area or another.
To say it differently, I've got a feeling we need to be born again. Which is why I was glad also to find Jim Wallis's newest offering, Rediscovering Values. Chris tians in the politically progressive subculture have known Wallis for years as an organizer, rabble-rouser and preacher of peace and justice.
Hughes calls a roll with names like Ron Sider, Jim Wallis and David Gushee, and his book extends the conversation that they—and he—have helped to lead. The book clears the ground of the myth of Christian America, and it sharpens the question of how this movement might come to connect political action with eschatological hope.
We can no more rid ourselves of the jeremiad than we can rid ourselves of apple pie, baseball and jazz. But Murphy tries. He aims to demythologize the golden age of our founding period, to chasten "zealous nationalism" by offering "pro phetic realism," and to loosen the religious orthodoxy underwriting the entire narrative. In short, he elevates the progressive jeremiad—delivered by Abra ham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, Bill Moyers and Jim Wallis—because the alternative's "use of the past is too limiting, its view of the present too despairing, its vision for the future too divisive." The traditionalist jeremiad, he says, "remains imprisoned in an exclusionary . . . white European Judeo-Christian paradigm."
The newspaper confirmed five praying partners. They are Otis Moss Jr., recently retired pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland; Bishop T. D. Jakes, pastor of the Potter's House megachurch in Dallas; Kirbyjohn H. Caldwell, senior pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston; Joel C. Hunter, pastor of Northland Church, a megachurch in Longwood, Florida; and Jim Wallis, who heads the Sojourners magazine and activist movement.
Of the 15 people named initially to the advisory council, several are evangelicals, including Jim Wallis, executive director of Sojourners; Frank Page, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention; megachurch pastor Joel C. Hunter of Lakeland, Florida; and Richard Stearns, president of World Vision.
Among those disturbed by the decision was Sojourners president Jim Wallis, who said that for Cizik's "creative and courageous" service to NAE and a new generation of evangelicals "to end over the words of an interview is sad."
If there is one idea that unites Jim Wallis and Pat Robertson, it is the idea that voting is a good idea. American Christians of both the right and the left have been so thoroughly indoctrinated into thinking that democracy is an unarguable good and that voting is the price we pay for the privilege of life in a constitutional democracy that there's nobody left among us to question the practice. Voting has been inflated from a democratic right to a Christian responsibility, and we have been so accustomed to thinking positively about voting that it's difficult for us to think like Christians.
Eric Gregory and Charles Mathewes share her unease with current political options—and even more with how academic theology discusses politics. The choices seem either to be a bare-knuckled version of Christian realism, with Richard John Neuhaus and Jean Bethke Elshtain using Reinhold Niebuhr to cheer the troops in Iraq; or a sort of Democrats-for-Jesus approach, with Jim Wallis making the case for Barack Obama in terms uncomfortably familiar to watchers of the religious right; or a retreat from the messiness of public life into the clean hands and unworried conscience of neomonasticism or the academy, with Stanley Hauerwas and John Milbank leading the way. Surely there are more options, aren't there?
In his new book, The Great Awakening, Jim Wallis describes how as a young man growing up in an evangelical church, he never heard a sermon on the Sermon on the Mount. That telling personal observation reflects a phenomenon about which I have been increasingly concerned: that much evangelical Christianity on both sides of the Atlantic has based itself on the epistles rather than the Gospels, though often misunderstanding the epistles themselves.